Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon review

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The A-Class Saloon offers an interesting proposition to buyers who'd like a compact four-door Mercedes but have no need to stretch up to a C-Class. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the updated model.

Ten Second Review

Mercedes wants its A-Class to meet a wide cross-section of customer needs. That's why as part of this updated fourth generation model line-up, the company continues to include this Saloon body style. To compensate for the lack of a hatch, you get a little extra rear seat room and a big 420-litre boot. And arguably, a little extra style.

Background

You'd have thought that the market for really compact premium brand saloons might be a little bigger than it is. Normal 'D'-segment premium brand four-door models like the BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-Class have, after all, become fairly expensive in recent times, with prices starting at well over £35,000. If in contrast, you could get much the same thing for a ferw thousand less, that'd have to be an interesting proposition for middle managers. Wouldn't it?

Audi thought so, launching its A3 saloon in 2015. But BMW didn't respond at all and Mercedes initially fielded only its CLA four-door Coupe - which wasn't quite the same thing. In 2019 though, Mercedes decided to do the job properly, introducing a proper notchback four-door version of the fourth generation A-Class, a model variant updated three years on to create the car we're going to look at here. Let's check this saloon out.

Driving Experience

Probably the most significant change with this updated version of the MK4 A-Class Saloon is that all the mainstream petrol engines now come with the brand's 48V mild hybrid system including the usual MHEV belt-driven starter-generator: that'll give you a 13hp boost when moving off. There are now only three mainstream engines, all of them four cylinder units driving the front wheels. As before, the petrol powerplant portfolio kicks off with a 1.4-litre powerplant, offered with either 136hp (in the A 180) or 163hp (in the A 200). Both must be had with 7-speed 7G-DCT auto transmission. The alternative is the A 200 diesel, which uses a 2.0-litre powerplant in a 150hp state of tune and must be had with 8-speed 8G-DCT auto transmission. A cleverer choice if you can afford it though, is the A 250 e Plug-in Hybrid powertrain offered in the Saloon version, which combines a 1.3-litre petrol engine with a 75kW electric motor and offers an EV driving range of up to 51 miles.

If you need a more sporting A-Class Saloon, you'll turn your attention to the two Mercedes-AMG 2.0-litre petrol turbo hot hatch variants. There's the A 35 4MATIC which gains the 48V mild hybrid system, uses an 8-speed DCT auto and offers a potent 306hp. And the un-electrified A 45 S 4MATIC+, which has 421hp and is really wild.

What else do you need to know? Well the suspension is the usual torsion beam rear set-up on most models, but if you go for a Mercedes-AMG sports variant with 4MATIC AWD, you'll get a more sophisticated multi-link rear set-up. Across the range, the 'DYNAMIC SELECT' driving modes system is standard, as usual enabling you to tweak steering feel and throttle response.

Some of the autonomous driving capability from larger Mercedes models has been built into this one, meaning that, in certain situations, your A-Class Saloon, if appropriately equipped, will effectively be able to drive itself on dual carriageways at cruising speeds.

Design and Build

This Saloon A-Class model is 130mm longer than its hatch stablemate, but sits on the same wheelbase. The long wheelbase version of this four-door is limited to the Chinese market. The standard wheelbase model for Europe gets a modular two-part rear bumper and what Mercedes calls a 'muscular and sensual' shoulder line. You have to look very closely to see the facelift update changes - a pair of power bulges in the low bonnet, a revised front bumper design and a smarter star-pattern radiator grille. The angular LED High Performance headlamps are also flatter and the 'AMG Line' trim levels that almost everyone chooses get a revised rear diffuser. As before, large wheel arches house big rims (ranging from 17 to 19 inches) that sit this A-Class squarely on the road.

This facelifted model doesn't look much different inside either, though Mercedes has updated the steering wheel (trimmed in soft Nappa leather), revised the 'comfort' seat design of more affordable variants and added a standard reversing camera, along with an extra USB-C port with a higher charging capacity. More significantly, the MBUX infotainment system has been updated and can now be ordered with fingerprint sensor access. It also gains more advanced speech recognition and wireless 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. And there are three fresh screen display styles - ''Classic', 'Sporty' and 'Discreet'.

The cabin design is of course exactly the same as in an A-Class hatch. The usual instrument binnacle cowl has been completely dispensed with, so the wing-shaped main body of the dashboard can extend from one front door to the other with no visual discontinuity. A virtual instrument screen of 10.25-inches in size replaces the usual dials and is joined with a centre-dash infotainment display (again 10.25-inches in size) to create one continuous monitor, much as you get in larger Mercedes models.

Obviously, this saloon variant differs from the hatch versions more in the rear. The roofline isn't so swept back as to limit headroom, while the wide-opening doors allow easy access. Mercedes claims there's class-leading headroom in the back. It'll still be tight for three adults though. The boot, which offers 420-litres of space, is 50-litres bigger than that of the hatch, though has a narrower opening.

Market and Model

You'll pay around £600 more for this Saloon body style over the price of the standard hatch. That means a starting price of around £32,500 for the A 180 petrol model - think around £35,000 for the A 200d diesel, assuming in both cases that you go for base 'Sport Executive' trim. There are three further trim levels - 'AMG Line Executive', 'AMG Line Premium' and 'AMG Line Premium Plus'. The A 250 e Plug-in Hybrid models start from 'AMG Line Executive' trim and cost from around £41,500.

Across the range, A-Class Saloon models feature twin 10.25-inch displays including an MBUX central touchscreen with 'Hey Mercedes' voice activation. There are also LED High Performance headlamps, a wireless phone charging mat, power-folding mirrors, rear privacy glass, automatic climate control, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Speed Limit Assist. 'AMG Line Executive' customers will benefit from 18-inch AMG alloy wheels, an AMG body styling kit, 'Artico' and Dinamica microfibre upholstery and a three-spoke sports steering wheel.

This fourth generation A-Class is well connected. Navigation functions, for example, can be based on traffic feedback from so-called 'Car-to-X communication' where information gets fed in from other similarly-equipped road users. As usual, there's a dowloadable 'Mercedes Me' app that connects you into your car and can tell you things like local fuel prices or the availability of parking spaces at your destination.

Cost of Ownership

Let's get to the WLTP figures. As usual with mild hybrid tech, don't get your hopes up too high for the difference it'll make: full-Hybrid and powertrains in rivals cost more for a reason (namely that unlike MHEVs, they allow the engine to run fully electrically). Anyway, the A 180 and A 200 in manual form both manage up to 48.7mpg on the combined cycle and up to 132g/km of CO2.

The economy champion of course, is still the A 200d diesel variant, which in base trim manual form exhales up to 128g/km of CO2, while only drinking a gallon of fuel on the combined cycle every 57.7 miles. With respectable performance figures, it's still a tempting package - albeit one that in its standard form, forgoes the big wheels and aggressive bodykits of more dynamic-looking versions. If you plan on adding the extra features, then economy will obviously take a hit.

With the A 250 e Plug-in Hybrid, the 16.0kWh battery can be charged with AC or DC current via a socket located in the right-hand side wall of the vehicle. This A 250 e can be charged at a 11kW charging station with alternating current (AC) within 1 hour 15 min from 10-100%. Using an 11kW wallbox, it'd be one hour and 45 minutes. Keep everything charged up and Mercedes reckons that 90% of regular commuting journeys can be completed without using the petrol engine. One important comfort feature is the pre-entry climate control prior to starting a journey, which reduces energy usage and can also be activated conveniently by smartphone. The quoted WLTP combined cycle fuel figure is between 282.5 and 353.1mpg and WLTP CO2 emissions are rated up to 19g/km. That means a 8% BiK tax rating; compare that to 30 or 31% for a conventional diesel or petrol-powered A-Class.

Across the A-Class Saloon range, the warranty may be an industry standard 3 years but is for unlimited miles, handy to know if you spend a lot of time on the road. Just remember that a mid-range diesel is the sensible option for high resale figures. With that in mind, something like a mid-spec A 200d model might well represent the sweet spot of the range. On the other hand, a Mercedes-AMG 4MATIC petrol variant with every option thrown at it will lose a lot more of its value over the years.

Summary

You can see how this Saloon A-Class variant might ccontinue to carve out a useful niche for itself. You get smart looks, a decently-sized boot and a class-leadingly sophisticated cabin that no rival model can match. Running cost efficiency is top-notch and, despite the front-driven format, there's pretty much all the warm feel of quality that comes with any model bearing the famous Three-Pointed Star. In short, if you can't quite stretch to a C-Class, then this might still be a tempting option.

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